California is burning. Wild fires are natural and common here. Each fall as the heat and dry grasses create the conditions, fires ignite. But clearly for decades now the fires have grown more frequent, larger and increasingly destructive. Human impacts on the climate and rapidly expanding encroachment into the uplands make the fires worse.
Here in Sonoma County, the beauty, food and wine have drawn humans closer to nature. That is a good thing and it is why I have chosen to live here. But as communities we have not been responsible enough in how we plan, build or prepare for the inevitable. We don’t spend the money to manage the fuel loads that build up around development or wineries. We don’t require nonflammable roofs on the older buildings. We do not bury our power lines. We don’t do enough to force our federal government to respond to global warming. We remain out of reality. So now reality is catching up. It is horrific and it hurts.
There is a silver lining. Pain causes change. We might adapt to reality based on our experience. We might adopt new approaches to development. We might become more radical in our insistence that Washington DC take on global warming. I am proud that our last two Governors and the Legislature have fully engaged climate change, but that is not enough. We face an existential crisis that requires a global response and America must lead. Our experience might move us to make different choices with more stridency. I hope so.
I do know, because I am seeing it all around me here as our homes, vines and businesses burn, that our community will become more cohesive. I am experiencing more empathy. People are more open to hear from one another. They are asking questions, seeking knowledge and information. Their hearts are open. The latter is a particularly good thing. This openness of minds and hearts is what will make America great again.
Perhaps the recent events in the Gulf Coast, the Caribbean and now California will fan the flames of change that we need to bring our nation and the world into reality. Humans must improve our relationship to mother nature, because she always has the last word. She is making herself heard.